Just two days after the massive hit of an earthquake on the northern part of Luzon then came a highly destructive tropical storm that has wiped at least 122 lives in the span of 2-3 days of its onslaught while 34 more individuals remain missing. Browsing through the news, anyone may see how livestock have been heavily damaged, if not, totally eradicated of existence. Nearly a year since the massive Typhoon Odette came to rummage the Philippines, it can be concluded that those in the lower side of the marginalized sectors might have not yet recovered since then. Let alone, now, that another damage caused by Typhoon Paeng has come to their bedside. Its effect did not just go about the millions to billions of economical effect, but this has also displaced hundreds to thousands of residents in the given risks of climate change. Truly, the effects and surge of climate change is deemed inevitable, but would we really let it destroy us, kill us, even? Would we really let it wipe out whatever that has been long established just because we know that we cannot do anything when it is mother nature who took her iron fists to teach us a lesson?
On Tuesday, November 2, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) declared about 2.4 million individuals who were badly affected by Tropical Storm Paeng (International Name: Nalgae) who were forced to flee from their homes for immediate safety. Some for a little while and others, permanently, due to their houses being entirely consumed by one of the most destructive storms that hit the country. What seems to exacerbate the situation even more is how everyone lauds the capacity of Filipinos to still be resilient amidst trials, but what many fail to realize is that one can only do so much. When the death of a loved one due to calamities has hit them, they cannot just plant a big smile and expect everything to go back to the way it was. What many fail to think about is the accountability that we should be seeking from the higher officials who have placed their extravagant platforms during the campaign season, but do not seem to be moving at all at times like this. It could be inferred that the primary response of the government to these occurrences is more about how they expect the survival of Filipinos, even if they would have to start from scratch.
The oligarchs and elites or anyone with a comfortable home away from disaster-prone areas may not even take a glimpse from what the community have been suffering from since the hit of Paeng. However, lucky for those in the marginalized sectors when those in the upper class have chosen to donate enough financial help or consumables for them to have as they slowly transition to their new reality of starting over again.
Flooding caused by the extensive rainfall due to the tropical storm that continues to consume the height of the house up until the roof had always been a recurring scene whenever a calamity happens–affected residents are expected to evacuate and crowd such temporary shelters, receive relief goods, and after a little while in staying at the evacuation centers, they come to go home and rebuild what was left off of their previous house. This time, rebuilding it with the same flimsy materials, ones that are cheaper, just so they can restart their life again. This misguided scenario comes in a vicious cycle that is just expected to always come through each and every time of disaster. The more it hits, the more people die, the more their capacity to be resilient drains out.
Some who do not understand would always ponder this question; why do they still risk their lives by staying in the disaster-prone areas when they could just move out and look for a residential area where they can start with? The reality to that question is that these people, who are often categorized in the marginalized sectors or those who are below the triangle often do not have any other choice but to build their lives in the place where they can headstart quickly, notwithstanding the gradual effects of it. Especially towards their family’s safety. These people can only do so much, but it is still up to the government on who they would mobilize the priority of their country’s safety.
Government agencies such as the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) and the University of the Philippines Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards (UP NOAH) Center have tools to help identify hazardous areas. Three years ago, Phivolcs launched HazardHunterPH, which generates initial assessment reports for seismic, volcanic, and hydro-meteorological hazards to help the public prepare for possible impacts. On the other hand, last year, UP NOAH relaunched its website that helps determine storm surge, flooding, and landslide hazards in an area that aims to help the public know potential hazards and safe locations in their community, as well as for experts and lawmakers to incorporate the data in their disaster risk-related policymaking. Given that we cannot say that we are entirely poor of tools to know and prevent the veracity of the potential damage of a natural disaster, what we can only conclude is that if the government, specifically, the current administration will push to look into these tools and to further enhance its ability to detect and give out prior guidance and warning to Filipinos, it could save lives. Such calamity disasters may not even take a single soul had the current administration knew how to utilize these things which are apparently just within hindsight–they just have to look at their surroundings.
Going back to the emphasis of hazard mapping in disaster-prone areas, such utility have long been used in Japan–the country where most of the natural disasters reside to–leading them to know where to go or what they can do for survival. Unfortunately, since the Philippines still has a long way to go to fully address or even eradicate the hunger and poverty inside it, let alone, having all their residents have an internet connection access this mapping, what the government can utilize is the hazard mapping of disaster-prone areas in the respective barangays, for in that way, people can be more intact to discuss, and that even the elderlies may have a glimpse of what is being planned, other than just what can be accessed in the internet.
In being in partnership with the local government units in cascading crucial information that could further one’s life, by the form of involving these things to barangays will help them to be hand-in-hand in spreading the information to their constituents, down to the residents. In that way, they would not also have a hard time in pulling these residents out of their houses when a natural disaster comes through but they can already expect them to know what they can do prior to being imbued with initiative.
At present, the Philippines has enough laws to respond to calamities. What the government needs to be hands-on with is to improve its disaster mitigation measures–plan out a maximum budget to provide a safe public housing to divert these people away from the disaster-prone areas, to help farmers in diversifying their crops before a calamity and to even provide them the needed technology in preparedness. Lastly, to shield the protected areas from having a development that could lead to the destruction of the natural covers.
It is never wrong to seek accountability from these people who have now been elected to rule. They were given the chance to showcase whatever they think this country needs. Now, it is our time to ask in return what we need to have for the development of this country. We need accountability. Thus, pushing the supposed responsibilities of these leaders who can actually show up in times of need, not just through official statements declaring their sympathy for what has happened.